In a feather-ruffling tale of espionage, a pigeon, initially detained on suspicion of being a Chinese spy, has been cleared of all charges and released back into the wild after an eight-month-long custody period.
The feathery suspect was apprehended in May 2023 near a Mumbai port after detectives discovered two rings on its legs bearing what seemed to be Chinese characters. The bird was promptly taken into custody under the suspicion of espionage, only to be later sent to Mumbai’s Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals.
As the days turned into months, the pigeon’s saga took an unexpected turn. Contrary to espionage speculations, it turned out the bird was, in fact, an open-water racing enthusiast from Taiwan. The intrepid pigeon had seemingly escaped, embarking on an unintended global journey that landed it in India. The once-suspected spy was subsequently approved for transfer to the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where, with a clean bill of innocence, the bird was released on Tuesday 6 February, as reported by The Guardian.
This story adds a new chapter to the long history of pigeons’ involvement in human affairs, including their roles in spying and combat. Throughout history, pigeons were employed by various forces, such as the UK in both WWI and WW II, to deliver crucial messages. Notably, a pigeon named Gustav played a pivotal role in D-Day, carrying the first news of the operation back to the UK after a correspondent attached a report to the bird while landing on Sword Beach in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
This isn’t the first time India has detained pigeons over security concerns. In 2020, police in Indian-controlled Kashmir apprehended a pigeon belonging to a Pakistani fisherman, suspecting espionage. However, an investigation revealed that the bird was merely a border-crossing enthusiast.
Moreover, in 2016, another pigeon found itself in detention after allegedly being discovered with a note threatening Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.